It was winning a national Teaching Award and getting a pay rise in recognition of her outstanding work that, paradoxically, inflicted the final blow to Sarah Wilson’s* finances and put her under threat of homelessness. The Guardian reports.
Until last winter, thanks to tax credits, the secondary teacher, a single parent, was just about scraping by. But her circumstances took a surprising turn for the worse when she received a £5,000 salary rise from her school, increasing her monthly take-home pay by £300, in recognition of her Teaching Award – the prestigious annual prizes sponsored by Pearson.
The following month, after being told of Wilson’s increase, the government finally processed a form she had sent in six months earlier and found she was being overpaid in tax credits. In December, she received a “scary” letter stating she owed HMRC £1,000, plus she would not be eligible for any further tax credits and benefits until April.
If she had not prioritised her rent over her food and bills, and eventually begged the charity Education Support Partnership (ESP) for help, “we would probably be homeless now”, she says.
Rent takes up 78% of her take-home pay, leaving her about £100 a week to live on from a £27,000 annual salary – but 100% of this (£400 a month) has to be spent on childcare to allow her to work full-time. Tax credits were her lifeline.
Wilson’s circumstances are far from exceptional. In fact, she was just one of 248 teachers and education sector workers “deemed to be at risk of homelessness” who last year received an ESP grant to help cover housing costs.
This is a 123% increase since 2014 in the number of housing-cost grants awarded by the charity, the UK’s oldest and largest teachers’ benevolent fund. In the past year alone, there has been a 27% increase in applications from education workers, many of them teachers living in London and the south-east, particularly women in their 30s and 40s with dependent children.
Sinéad Mc Brearty, the head of ESP, says the charity – which has been around for 142 years – is spending its reserves to keep up with the demand for grants, 72% of which relate to housing costs.
“People don’t expect teachers to be homeless, to get the majority of their food from food banks, to live in poverty.” She often reads applications from teachers with children trying to survive on less than £100 a week. “There isn’t a future where teachers will stay living in the south-east in poverty. They will move out or give up teaching. We have a massive recruitment crisis. We have tipped the point where there are more people leaving than there are entering the profession.”
Read the full article including another teachers story Award-winning teacher among staff needing charity to scrape by
In a similar situation? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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